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Taking stock: new trees, new beginnings

By DEBORAH HAGGETT - Garden Club of Cape Coral | Nov 3, 2022

November is a month traditionally known for sentiments of gratitude culminating in the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, a month after the devastating landfall of Hurricane Ian, it may be difficult to appreciate our life circumstances. That said, it may be an ideal time to take stock of what we have and find opportunities for new beginnings.

Following Ian, I am left with a large, sun-filled opening in my front yard, where once stood a beautiful 15-foot dwarf Carrie Mango tree. My precious mango tree brought years of tasty, juicy mangos every June and July. I became known as the neighborhood “Bubba Gump” of mangos. I tried more mango recipes than Bubba ever considered for shrimp recipes. So, how will I move forward from here? Is there another mango tree in my future or is it time to explore other possibilities? The choices are overwhelming, yet exciting.

I found myself wandering through a few nurseries along with other weary post-storm gardeners. One nursery specialized in native plants and trees. Others displayed both native and ornamental plants. I spoke with nursery owners and took pictures of possible trees. I began researching trees on the internet, thankful for the return of internet availability. Another example of, “You don’t know what you’ve got, ’til it’s gone!” (Joni Mitchell, 1970).

Given what Ian taught us about the perils of large trees, I would like to find a tree with a mature height less than 20 feet and one with a high wind resistance factor. Previous storms have demonstrated the resilience of native trees. Of course, my eye would like something stunning which appeals to pollinators and wildlife. If that is not enough, I would also enjoy a tree with value as an edible.

Several trees emerged from my research. The following native trees meet many of the features from my list and would accommodate the size of my small yard with its southern exposure: Bahama Strongbark (20 feet); Cinnecord Tree (15-20 feet); Lignum Vitae (10-20 feet); Marlberry (15-25 feet); Weeping Yaupon Holly (20-25 feet); and Wild Cinnamon Bark (20-25 feet).

The Bahama Strongbark has a beautiful weeping structure with white flowers and red fruit which attracts birds and bees. It is a very attractive and fragrant tree. The Cinnecord Tree is a multi-trunk tree with dark green leaves and fragrant, yellow puff-ball shaped flowers which attract birds and butterflies. It is considered endangered in Florida. The Lignum Vitae is considered a show-stopper with its blue-purple flowers and yellow-orange berries. Unpruned, it can grow to 30 feet. All three meet the criteria of native, attractive, low-growing trees which attract pollinators. None, however, meet my wish for a tree which provides an edible feature.

The Marlberry tree is a tree with a narrow growth habit. It has white, showy, fragrant flowers with dark blue-black berries enjoyed by birds. Its berries are edible to humans as well; however, the seeds are acidic and take away from the sweetness of the berry. The Weeping Yaupon Holly is an attractive evergreen tree with clusters of small white flowers and orange to red berries enjoyed by birds and butterflies. Its leaves can be brewed to make a strong, highly caffeinated tea.

Another choice is the endangered Wild Cinnamon Bark tree, which I wrote about in December 2021. It is not an edible cinnamon, but it is a showy evergreen tree with shiny, dark green leaves, red-purple fragrant flower clusters, and red berries. It attracts birds and butterflies with its cinnamon fragrance.

These are a few of the native trees which are up for consideration. Unfortunately, I will most likely over-think this decision as I often do. Then again, I may revisit the thought of another mango tree. To be continued…

Deborah Haggett is a Lee County Master Gardener Volunteer and a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral. Visit us at www.gardenclubofcapecoral.com

References

Castro, D. C. (2021, January 20). SMALLER Native Trees. UF/IFAS Extension Broward County. https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/browardco/2020/04/07/smaller-native-trees/

Meerow, A. W., & Broschat, T. K. (2020, October 14). Native Trees for South Florida. UF/IFAS. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/eh157

Trees That Can Withstand Hurricanes – University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/trees-and-shrubs/trees/trees-that-can-withstand-hurricanes.html